Thursday, 17 May 2018

Long Tailed Tits

 There are two pairs of long tailed tits nesting just beyond the boundaries of our garden.  They visit the Fat Balls regularly to feed.
 Recently they have been flying for insects on the wing, above the tall shrubs at the garden boundary.  They will hover upwards, like lethargic humming birds and snatch insect prey.  Today they seem to be taking large black and yellow banded insects, which I suspect are small wasps.  The bodies are too fat to be hover-flies when the images are magnified, but the pixilation is too rough to see exactly what they are.
 With a 300mm hand held lens at 30m away, it is difficult to get a good focus on such small and fast moving birds.  I am finding that 1 in 5 pictures are in focus.
It is delightful to see such birds doing well.  They only generally hunt like this when they have young to feed.  No doubt we will see the fledglings in due course.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Chinos - my wotsit!

Life is not going my way.  For years I have worn Chino trousers which were designed as a cotton fabric loose fitting trouser with a darted waist.
Having searched the shops for a pair of these trousers, I now find that the usual made in China or made in India stock (throughout the stores) are now flat fronted tight trousers in regular or short leg sizes.  They are all called Chino's, but they are a mile away from the comfortable design that was a Chino.
There are still a few companies that manufacture within Europe, who produce the classic Chino trousers, but they cannot compete with the cheap imports from outside of the European Zone.  It looks like local manufacturing is now well and truly dead.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

RFC Tydd St Mary's

There are very few simulated first World War aircraft for the X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator.  Even fewer first World War airfield simulations.  Having a Sopwith Camel model, I thought it would be a good idea to try and fly it from a vintage airfield.
 My first attempt was to create RFC Tydd St Mary's airfield in the Lincolnshire Fens.  This was a small airfield used for Home Defence and it was classified as a Class 1 Night Landing Field.  It was established in 1916 as a grass field with 2 Twin Hangars.  The landing lights were a set of caged paraffin burners that could be laid along the sides of the active runway.  B flight of 51 HD Squadron from Marham moved in with 8 FE2b aircraft, 7 officers, 5 NCO's and 40 other ranks to defend against the threat of zeppelin attacks.
 In 1918, B flight were joined by the 92 USAAC transit unit for landing ground training prior to moving US pilots to the battle front in France.  They arrived with DH6 aircraft and a few Avro and BE fighters.  5 Bessonneau Hangars were erected on site.  These were French designed wooden framed and canvass covered structures that were erected like tents.  At this time 51 squadron received a flight of Avro 504K trainers fitted with machine guns for night flying use.  The Airfield was disbanded in 1919, though the last hanger was demolished in 2009.  The airfield became the Grange Wind farm in 2012, with 4 wind turbines.
 As part of the model, Tydd St Marys was created to be seen from the air, including the unusual church, which is a composite of stone and brick build over several hundred years of refurbishment.
For those who have X-Plane 11, the airfield is available at my X-Plane pages as a downloadable free zip file at

The problem with WW1 aircraft simulations is the difficult ground handling.  Early aircraft had no steering or brakes, so turning on the ground needed men at each wingtip to pull the aircraft around.  This is not practical on the simulator, so it is best to start with the aircraft at the end of a runway.

It is not easy to land on an airfield at night when the runway is only lit by paraffin lamps.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring weather, at last

 Now that the weather is starting to warm up, the garden is returning to its greener state.  The pond is showing signs of life as the newts emerge.  We have only seen one frog this year and there is no spawn in the pond, This is the first time in over 20 years that the frogs have not spawned here.
 The Rhubarb is starting to become suitable for picking and we have had our first taste of this fine vegetable.
 The Ransoms (wild garlic) are in full leaf at the side of the shed.  It will not be long before they are in flower.
Today, I started to reorganise the greenhouse.  Seed tomatoes are big enough to re-pot, so I have constructed a frame and planted some of them out.  Courgettes and beans are also coming on.  Now I need to turn my attention to the raised beds and other seedling crops, ready for the warmer weather.  Next job will be to plant out the potatoes.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

William Billinge

Yesterday we met family and friends at Longnor for coffee.  Afterwards we ventured to the churchyard to see the grave of William Billings.
 This was intended as a day to see the splendid scenery of the landscape, but mist and fog was the order of the day.  The gravestone is off to the right from the path to the church.
In memory of William Billinge who
was born in a cornfield, at Fawfieldhead, in
this parish, in the year 1679. At the age of
23 years he enlisted into His Majesty's Service
under Sir George Rooke, and was at the taking
of the fortress of Gibraltar, in 1794.  He after
-wards served under the Duke of Marlborough at
the ever memorable Battle of Ramillies. 
fought on the 23rd. of May 1706 where he
was wounded by a musket shot in the thigh.
He afterwards returned to his native country and
with manly courage defended his Sovereign's
rights at the Rebellion in 1715 and 1745.  He
died within the space of 150 yards of where
he was born and was interred here the 30th. of
January 1792 aged 112 years -
Billeted by death I quartered here remain,
When the trumpet sounds I'll rise and march again

The stone is not the original.  This is noted on the reverse;

This Stone
was placed here by public
subscription in 1903. And is
a facsimile of the original
Stone which was removed at
the same time being in
process of decay.

Rev. A. E. Brown, Vicar.

It is unsure if he was the oldest man in England at the time of his death, but he certainly had a memorable life.  This stone needs to be taken in context as there were no military pensions at the time and soldiers were generally stood down after battles, needing to find work in order to afford to live.

Records from Williams time are sparse, but some evidence of his life does remain.


Corners of my mind

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Today in the garden

After morning coffee I looked out and saw a redwing fly into the garden.  This was an unusual event, so I reached from my camera and went to the bedroom window to see what I could spot.
 The redwing was grubbing about in the undergrowth for some time.  Sparrows, robins and a wren showed some interest in this activity.
 This is robin one leg.  He/She is always around the garden near the feeders.
 One of the dog foxes could be seen scratting in the woodland at the back of the garden.
 This squirrel in the Tulip Tree was having a mid morning wash.
 Vixen sunning on the lawn.
Wren grubbing along the garden wall.
Plenty to see in just a few minutes.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Daughter of Mrs Fox

 At about 4pm today, a fox appeared in our garden.  This vixen was clearly lactating and had probably not long since had cubs.  She was insistent and not frightened, so she had been here before.
 I took some food out and she ate freely with me just a few meters away.  She was a young fox and had many of the characteristics of Mrs Fox from last year - but thicker fur and shorter legs, just like the female cub who was accompanied into the garden with her family.
The snow is lingering in the shade of the tall hedges whilst the rest of the garden is clear.  Outside temperature is close to freezing.  The forecast is poor for the coming night.
 This fox is fit and well, and settled in the safe haven of our garden.  Both Rosie and I felt that she recognised us from last year.
Just time for a clean up before returning to the den.  Foxes don't mess about when they have cubs to feed.